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Implants Allow the Blind to See 354

gihan_ripper writes "Neurosurgeon Kenneth Smith has performed a revolutionary operation on St Louis resident Cheri Robertson, connecting a camera directly to her optic nerve. The rig is in principle similar to Geordi La Forge's visor, albeit in very rudimentary form. At present, the 'image' consists of a number of white dots, as on an LED display. There are also governmental restrictions on this research, forcing Kenneth and his team to fly to Portugal to carry out the operation. If this technology takes off, the future will be bright for the sight-impaired."
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Implants Allow the Blind to See

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  • Neato (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jrabbit05 ( 943335 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:48PM (#15072628)
    Maybe us geeks won't all go blind, well at least the ones of us that could afford this in our old age.
  • Guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boronx ( 228853 ) <evonreis@mohr-engineerin g . com> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:52PM (#15072661) Homepage Journal
    Without reading the article, I will guess that this sort of advancement will benefit those who have lost their sight but not those who never had it.
  • Re:Uh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Adrilla ( 830520 ) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:53PM (#15072669) Homepage
    The real news is that this procedure can't even be done in the U.S. America is supposed to be the land of the free and they can't even do an operation that gives a woman some sight back. What does that say about our progressiveness (is that a word?). The same goes for stem cells but I won't even get into that. I just wish we would get our head out of our asses when it comes to doing cutting edge surgery. You always hear it's coming out of Switzerland or Sweden (or Portugal in this case), why couldn't this be done here.
  • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:53PM (#15072672)
    So sad that massive bureaucracy and misinformation makes this kind of research too difficult and expensive.
  • Re:Wow (Score:1, Insightful)

    by gameforge ( 965493 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:05PM (#15072734) Journal
    Well for one thing you pretty much accused President Bush of forbidding her to have the surgery. Somehow I doubt he's the reason; there's probably legal restrictions in place because eyesight operation is scarily remnant of the Holocaust (with the Nazis trying to change the color of poeples' eyes & such, trying to create a perfect race & whatnot). Albeit, I don't think this type of surgery is what they had in mind, but think about the possibilities.

    If something like the Holocaust ever happened again, people with perfectly good eyesight could be held hostage and could have special implants done to their eyes... similar to this, but instead of seeing through a camera, you'd see... whatever they wanted you to see.

    Messing with a human's visual perception has some scary implications. What if you had an X-Ray camera implanted or nightvision? A bionic human is not out of reality with a device like this. Of course in this case, it sounds like this woman was the recipient of a true miracle.

    Btw, I didn't have mod points and I didn't call your post Flamebait (I don't think it is). But don't be so quick to blame President Bush for everything... not that I'm one of his biggest fans or anything.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:06PM (#15072742)
    It was illegal before Bush. People have been pushing this kind of thing for a long time, and have been doing it outside of the country for a long time.

    It's easy to blame everything on Bush... but really stupid too. By pinning everything on Bush, you ignore those really responsible.

    Don't like the war in Iraq? Want to blame Bush? Did you forget that it requires an act of Congress to declare war, or do you just prefer to let the legislative branch delude you so they can get re-elected?
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:07PM (#15072747)
    With a nice machine crunching video into edges, I guess even a 32x32 image could be useful to show the edges of sidewalks, obstructions etc. All sounds well within the scope of a PDA-level CPU.
  • From a goals perspective, there are major leaps forward:

    * ability to avoid obstacles
    * ability to see individual people
    * ability to differentiate between people
    * ability to discern expressions
    * ability to read enlarged print
    * ability to operate visually oriented equipment
    * ability to read normally
    * ability to drive

    Taking things one step at a time, its a long road but hopefully one that is linear rather than logarythmically difficult.
  • by M0b1u5 ( 569472 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:13PM (#15072780) Homepage
    This is the start of something wonderful. The Auditory nerves have already been hacked, and we are well down the path towards providing 1,024 channels of sound to persons who have lost their hearing due to ear damage, or malformed ear hardware.

    Hacking the Optic Nerve is the Next Big Thing because humans get 90% of all sensory input via the optic nerve. Once you've cracked that you're 90% of the way towards very, very advanced cyborgs, with the 'net being ubiquitously available, and displaying as a HUD-type device over our normal vision, or as a 6 foot screen when the eyes are closed.

    Simultaneous to these developments, we are already taking steps towards being able to offer ages people perfect memories again, by the introduction of the artificial hippocampus. (To my knowledge there are no people, as yet, with this device, but it works in Rats)

    Having the ability to crack the "memory code" of our brains with a better hippocampus, and allowing our brains to use external storage ("wet-wiring"?), coupled with optic and auditory nerve implants is going to allow humans to improve themselves mentally beyond the limits which evolution, chemistry and brain size have created.

    I can't wait for my implants!

    I hope they won't run windows Brain-Edition though.
  • Re:Restrictions? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:16PM (#15072790) Journal
    There have been restrictions in place for a long time for a variety of reasons. Most of all, it has to do with preventing medical experimentation on people who feel they have nothing left to lose, which could result in exploitation, particularly for ambitious doctors who want to make a name for themselves. So now, to justify such experiments, a lot of work has to go into validating the theoretical research, evaluating the potential risks, and justifying the potential payoff.

    I do feel it has become too much though - I don't believe it is the government's job to prevent us from making rash decisions.

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:28PM (#15072832)
    "Lots of questions and I don't claim to have the answers"

    I do.

    "Are you sure this is progress?"


    "Can this surgery only be done if one is handicapped in some way?"

    No, but until the result of operation is better than "normal" eyesight, it would be considered a downgrade for most people.

    "What happens when the handicapped when augmented become more able than those who cannot have the surgery?"

    Then not being able to have the surgery becomes the new handicap.

    "Will we forbid computer implants for the "rich" because it will give them an unfair advantage over the "poor"?"

    No. The operation costs money, which is something the rich have (apart from times where the rich donate to give the poor chance to recieve such tech). Plus you can't really ban someone from having something just because they've been more successful in life (or have been born into family success etc).

    "Do we really want to become the Borg?"

    Yes. But without the nasty makeup. Or the mind-linking, so we can keep having our dirty disgusting thoughts (and keep them to ourselves when we really need to).

    This is just technology. The only thing different about it than other technology out there is it's interface. If you wanna see in the dark, there's nightvision goggles (which will cost MUCH less than having one sugically implanted). If you wanna see some chick nekkid, you just wait til she's asleep. This is no more disturbing than that.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @10:48PM (#15072908)
    TFA paints a very different picture:

    He says, right now, governmental restrictions may get in the way of performing the surgery in the United States. "There were no governmental or hospital problems with getting permission to do the experimental operation in Portugal, whereas, it would be almost impossible here. Plus, it was much cheaper -- about one-third of the cost in the hospital as it would be in U.S. hospitals," he says

    Nowhere does it say anything about government restrictions on the research :-/

    Sensationalisation (wow, that's a longer word than I thought) anyone?

  • Re:Uh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @11:00PM (#15072982)
    Nanny state government. Yet I see they don't limit ignorant kids joining the Army... I wonder why. There will certainly be some kids that would need their eyesight back after a tour of duty...
    (And "bilking" is my image word... how appropriate)
  • by MacJedi ( 173 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @12:36AM (#15073420) Homepage
    The optical nerve goes to the back of the brain.

    This is true only in an extremely simplified model of vision. In any rate, it is beside the point. The summary indicates that the implant targets the optic nerve. This is simply not true. The Dobelle implant sends signals directly to visual cortex-- it bypasses the retina, optic nerve and lateral geniculate nucleus and incidentally also bypassing a great deal of visual processing.

    There are researchers who are making visual prosthetics that target the optic nerve, notably Claude Veraart and coworkers at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments